Six Tips To Market and Promote Your Transit System

Indianapolis bus sporting the old Metro logo
Indianapolis bus sporting the old Metro logo. Christopher MacKechnie

These are six basic tips that one should consider using to market and promote your transit system.

Focus on the Right Market

Many transit systems go after recruiting the generic "non-rider" when they would be more successful in aiming their focus on a smaller subsection of the population. For example, groups that could be amenable to using public transportation more are students, both high school and college, and the elderly. In general, any individual who is embarking on a new stage of their life journey could be amenable to taking transit in the right situation.

Get an Existing Rider to Ride More Than to Attract a New One

For most transit systems in the United States, the majority of their ridership is captive. While captive riders have no alternative to the bus if they choose to take a trip, in many cases they will not choose a trip on transit because of the poor quality of the service. Focus on providing a high-quality service to your existing passengers before you plan on expansions to serve new ones.

Consider Recruiting Bus Drivers

As a former bus driver, I can definitely attest to the fact that it is much easier driving the bus than it is dealing with the bus passengers. Courteous and friendly drivers will keep passengers coming back just to say hello. Rude and obnoxious drivers will drive away passengers as surely as rude employees at one grocery store will send customers to the next one. Remember that captive riders always have a choice: they can choose to stay home.

Information Delivery

First, you must have well-designed paper bus schedules or other information that is available in a wide variety of locations. While smartphones are quickly becoming the norm, there are still some Americans who do not have one yet. Second, your website must be informative and easy to use. You definitely should hire an experienced professional web designer to design your site.

Transit System's Waiting Room

Would you go to a doctor that had a dark waiting room, no place to sit down, and no availability of basic information such as the clinic's hours of operation? At the minimum bus stops should be well lit at night and have a bench; shelters should be judiciously added, especially in areas that have cold winters. At a minimum, the bus stop sign should have on it the customer service phone number, the route number(s) of the bus route(s) serving the stops and the destination. It would also be nice if simple scheduling information was found somewhere at the stop, like "Route X operates every 30 minutes from 6 AM to 10 PM."

Expose Your System to New Passengers

Although federal regulations mostly prohibit American transit systems from providing charter services, in certain cases transit systems can provide specialized services to particular events. For example, in Los Angeles Foothill Transit and other local transit systems provide shuttle service to concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. Even if the only transit an individual ever takes is a shuttle to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl a clean bus with friendly driver will leave a positive image; this image may benefit the system later on in an election to increase sales or property taxes to fund the agency.